SEA the WORLD From Whales’ Perspective

By on February 26, 2015 with 6 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The footage was recorded in January, taken by the operator of a whale-watching boat in Cabo St. Lucas – at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula in the west of Mexico. A juvenile humpback whale surges out of the water, and splashes down on his side. He proceeds for several minutes with his natural display, rising up and crashing back into the water, to the delight of people on the nearby shores and also those on a whale-watching boat. It was the equivalent of a whale fireworks display.

Non-intrusive wildlife viewing is the right way to see whales showing off playful behavior. It’s now a growing part of the Cabo ecotourism economy, with tourists coming in part to see the spectacle of these enormous creatures in their native habitats. And more than ever, that sort of display makes the staged performances of orcas in small tanks look ever more archaic and unacceptable.

Yesterday, SeaWorld reported a loss of more than $25 million for the 4th quarter of 2014, while attendance to the company’s 11 parks fell 2.2 percent, from 4.5 million to 4.4 million, during the same period a year ago.  Attendance fell 4.3 percent during the entire year, from 23.4 million in 2013 to 22.4 million – down a million, but that’s still too many people who go through the gate.

Yet perceptions of SeaWorld seem now indelibly changed by the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which had serial broadcasts on CNN in addition to other widespread showings. The company’s stock is down 41 percent over the last 12 months, after the public learned of the prior history of wild captures of orcas, the deaths of several trainers, and the opinions of so many leading whale scientists that the animals cannot possibly have a rich life in tanks. SeaWorld’s CEO even stepped down at the end of last year amid this mess.

The interim CEO has the challenge of moving the business away from holding complex marine mammals in tiny tanks. But for now he’s taking the wrong approach, saying the company is launching a major branding campaign starting in April to defend a practice that’s bound to be more unpopular as animal protection values become more intensely felt throughout the whole of society. The campaign is aimed not at people whose minds are made up but, according to the Orlando Sentinel, it “will focus on those in the middle” – those who are still undecided about the company’s conduct.

Sounds like a good time for animal groups to step up their efforts to remind people that there are extraordinary places to see whales and to patronize businesses built around that experience. No one needs to watch whales kept in small enclosures and forced to perform tricks, when there are so many better alternatives – starting with the world’s five oceans.

Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. elena faye doyle says:

    I loved seeing the orcas performing when I was younger, now that I know the truth, it hurts knowing what they go through. SeaWorld is seen on TV many times rescuing, nursing and freeing marine creatures. It is very heartwarming and hard to hate them. Also they claim they are making larger tanks for the orcas. If they would stop capturing orcas, making them perform, admit they made a mistake and they are changing their policies, I think it would be good PR and they could stop loosing money. Bless them for the GOOD deeds they have done though, and thank the Blackfish makers for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Robert Anderson says:

    These captive orcas should be retired to sea pens.
    But if SeaWorld gets into real financial difficulty, they will simply sell or lease their orcas to marine parks in other countries. How do you propose preventing an even worse fate?

  3. Debbie Bounds says:

    I wish that all these theme parks that have captive creatures would fold.

  4. David Bernazani says:

    Yes, it’s time for SeaWorld, Seaquarium and others to start planning a better and more humane way to entertain the masses. Their business models of cruel captivity are no longer acceptable.

  5. MCG says:

    Of course, the “solution” to every problem is a good P.R. campaign. If it’s a good enough method of “governing” in D.C., it is good enough for businesses. Jerks.

  6. Joy says:

    It is because of places like Sea World that people even know what orcas look like. From what I understand, they haven’t captured for quite sometime, as they We breeding them. I think because they have brought attention to these animals is why people are protesting. But by having them in captivity, they have been able to study them, and learning about ways to care for when they are sick and other things. I admit that it is not perfect, but between caring for the orcas, and for the other sea animals, as well as all of the rescues they have done, I just think that they have done more good than bad.

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